Having accrued almost 40 years of experience in psychology, Jean M. Alberti, PhD, has become an authority in her field after founding her own clinic, Alberti Psychological Services, in 1981. At the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo, she rose from a graduate research assistant from 1965 to 1968 to director of the University Research Office from 1968 to 1972 while completing a PhD in educational psychology. She planned to teach the teachers how to teach. Upon graduation, however, her career took a detour, first into medical education teaching physicians and allied health professionals how to teach more effectively. Dr. Alberti started as an assistant professor of medical education at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago in 1972. She became an associate professor of medical education at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in 1975, then the department chair before leaving in 1980.
Dr. Alberti took another detour into health education, serving as director of evaluation for two National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants, one at the Chicago Heart Association from 1981 to 1984 and the other at the Northwestern University Medical School’s Multipurpose Arthritis Center from 1984 to 1988. During her years in medical education, she was a consultant to the NIH, reviewing grants of the Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the Arthritis, Metabolism and Digestive Diseases Institute between 1976 and 1984. Dr. Alberti also co-authored eight manuscripts and six abstracts published in eight professional journals from 1977 to 1986.
Prior to becoming an esteemed psychologist, Dr. Alberti started her career, like many women in her generation, as a teacher, having graduated with a Bachelor of Science from D’Youville College in 1957. She earned a Master of Education from the University of Buffalo in 1962 and a PhD from SUNY Buffalo in 1970. In 1980, when she realized she missed the active teaching role, she returned to school to get the counseling/clinical education needed to become a licensed cognitive therapist. Cognitive therapy combined her interest in psychology with her training, experience and orientation toward education. Dr. Alberti went on to receive a Master of Science in counseling psychology from the George Williams College of Aurora University in 1984.
The motto of Alberti Psychological Services is, “Change your thinking. Change your life.” It also is the method by which Dr. Alberti has counseled individuals, couples and groups for depression, anxiety, marital or parenting issues, as well as other problems. During this part of her career, she has been a presenter on 26 psychological topics to 38 community groups.
Outside of her professional responsibilities, Dr. Alberti remains informed of the changes and advancements in her fields of psychology and education through her life memberships with the American Psychological Association and Pi Lambda Theta, the International Honor Society in Education. Her leadership skills were honed early in her career through her involvement in Pi Lambda Theta, rising from chapter delegate to international vice president, international first vice president and international president. A few years ago, the then-current executive director of PLT, having analyzed current and previous statistics, informed Dr. Alberti that membership in the association had been at its all-time peak of about 17,000 members during her presidency.
By far, however, the proudest moment in Dr. Alberti’s illustrious career was the opening of the eponymous Dr. Jean M. Alberti Center for the Prevention of Bullying Abuse and School Violence at the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education in 2010. Its evolution began with the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The two student perpetrators had been victims of bullying. For some time, as a result of her on-going involvement in both education and psychology, Dr. Alberti had been disturbed by and disagreed with educators’ dismissal of bullying as “normal child development.” Her teaching experience, and graduate education in child development and in the psychology of learning, did not support that conclusion.
In preparation for a 2001 presentation, “Three Steps to Ending School Violence,” at Pi Lambda Theta’s Biennial Conference, Dr. Alberti drew her “bullying tree” diagram, illustrating the roots of bullying in the individual’s personality, in family experiences, in the community and in the culture. It also shows the branches of the tree, which are lifelong consequences and the sequelae of bullying for the victim and for the bully, as well as for the family of the bully, for the workplace of the bully and for the culture. The latest research documents that school violence is the consequence when the bullying victim(s) acts out the learned/modeled behavior, venting pent-up grievance(s). As a result of her experience counseling some adult clients who had been victims of bullying in childhood and/or adolescence, and others who had been victims of physical or emotional abuse, Dr. Alberti realized that behavioral descriptors of physical bullying and cyberbullying were exactly the same as adult behaviors punished by law as physical abuse and/or emotional abuse of children or adults. This led her to coin the term “bullying abuse” to convey that bullying is abuse and to create the slogan, “Bullying is child abuse by children,” to convey that children are learning to abuse when their bullying goes unpunished.
In support of this worthy endeavor, Dr. Alberti created an endowment for the Alberti Center to provide ongoing support for the laudable work taking place there. She regards it as her personal and professional legacy to future generations to help solve the growing problems of bullying and school violence in American society. Dr. Alberti also plans to financially assist in the funding of scholarships for women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM]. It is through this that she aspires to realize her goals of promoting the achievements of women and to help them reach the same heights as their male colleagues.
Due to her many achievements, Dr. Alberti has received awards and accolades commensurate with a career defined by excellence. In addition to being acknowledged as an Outstanding Young Woman of America in 1965 and as a Woman of Leadership by the then-mayor of Chicago in 1978, she gained further recognition as a Woman of Achievement through Women in Management in 1983 and a Distinguished Pi Lambda Thetan in 1991. She also earned the Scepter and Key Award for outstanding leadership from Pi Lambda Theta in 2003, the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2010 and the Dean’s Service Award in 2013 from the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education. Dr. Alberti has further been featured in several editions of Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the Midwest, as well as in the International Dictionary of Distinguished Leadership.